The Houston Texans just won their 10th game of the season and have a chance to secure a bye week in their next two games, but there is little to no buzz around the city. More than likely you have heard someone attempt to convince you to enjoy this season, a season that includes a nine-game win streak and 10 wins out of 11 games. On paper, it’s hard to understand why any Houstonian needs convincing to enjoy the ride. Houston hasn't seen this much success since its playoff runs in 2011 and 2012; so why does it seem like there was a bigger buzz during those years than this season?
2011 Houston Texans Season
A season that almost didn’t happen due to a NFL lockout in negotiations of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, 2011 was Gary Kubiak’s do-or-die season. In 2010 it seemed like his regime had bottomed out, going 6-10 for the season. It took virtually everyone in Houston by surprise when Bob McNair chose to keep him the following year. The unpopular move made sense: offense was never a problem under Kubiak’s regime, but after having the worst defense in the league, it was time for an established defensive coordinator. In came Wade Phillips, and he proved to be the difference in turning the Texans into a playoff team.
Kubiak, entering his sixth season, could not afford to have a rough start, especially when he had spent five years with the team but still had never achieved a playoff berth. In this 2011 season he had every reason to collapse under such immense pressure; and Arian Foster, the 2010 league leading rusher in yards, being out for the first three games of the season didn’t help either.
This was just the beginning of a season where the Texans embraced the phrase “next man up.” Andre Johnson would be out several weeks after suffering a non-contact hamstring injury in a scary scene against the defending AFC Champ Pittsburgh Steelers. Mario Williams seemed to be reborn under Wade Phillips’s system, but suffered a season-ending injury in Week 5 against Oakland. Most notably, Houston lost its starting quarterback Matt Schaub; this happened in the middle of a hot four-game win streak that destroyed opponents like the Titans (41-7), Jacksonville (24-14), Cleveland (30-12), and Tampa Bay (37-9).
Houston was erupting with passion for the Texans, who were having their most successful season at 7-3 despite all the injuries to its biggest of stars and core players. When TJ Yates led the team to its eighth victory, optimism was restored, and Texans fans were thinking why not us and why not TJ Yates? The buzz only grew when TJ led the Texans to victory against an Atlanta Falcons team that was 7-4 and winners of five of their last six. When the winning streak continued on the road in December in Cincinnati, clinching the division and a playoff berth, the city’s enthusiasm was at an all-time high. A franchise that had never been to the playoffs, that dealt with injuries to their best running back, their best wide receiver, their best pass rusher, and their best quarterback, didn’t make excuses. Instead the Texans rose to the challenge and earned their first division championship and playoff berth, and had the city believing in the possibility of a Super Bowl berth with a 5th round, 3rd string quarterback.
2012 Houston Texans Season
After losing to the Ravens in the Divisional Round by just 7 points, Houston maintained its buzz, and any skepticism about Kubiak’s future was in the rear-view mirror. The Texans would enter the season losing two of their best offensive linemen and losing Mario Williams to a big pay day. But they regained their starting quarterback that many believe would have taken them all the way the previous year. The Texans would have their best start in Franchise History, going 5-0 with games that included the eventual comeback player of the year Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos. Houston Fans were now beating their chests as they saw their team carrying on just as they had been before Schaub’s injury.
New fans had jumped on board during the Texans’ first playoff run, but the bandwagon really blew up on this 2012 run. In 2011, Sonic restaurants had run a promotion that offered customers a free Slush if the Texans scored on the first drive of the second half. In 2012, the offer was applied to any Texans win, creating a whole new fan experience. There are still places in Houston that offer freebies for Texans victories, but none blew up like the Sonic offer. It was the Great Texans Slushes Epidemic, with lines that spilled into the street; demand was so high that employees brought out carts of Slushes just to get the line moving. If you happened to drive by a Sonic on a Tuesday, it was rare to find one without heavy traffic.
Texan fans were excited about their team dominating the league, with wins against Peyton Manning, a dismantling of the eventual Super Bowl Champs Ravens, a cold and muddy slugfest with the one-loss Bears in primetime, back-to-back overtime victories that included a thanksgiving comeback against the Lions … I could go on, but I digress. A hype song for the season, Texans superfan Dre Ladon recorded a hype song for 2011 and made a new song for 2012 titled “H Up 4 Dem Texans.” It featured an Antonio Smith cameo, along with Rich Lord of Sports Radio 610 and Josh Innes in a generic Texans jersey.
When the city buzzes as loud as Houston was, Houston Legends will take notice. Slim Thug, Paul Wall, and Z-RO teamed up with Director Michael Artis to make another Texans Hype song called “Houston.” The video included Texans players such as JJ Watt, Arian Foster, Brian Cushing, and Duane Brown. If you haven’t heard it before, shame on you; if you have, it brings back the nostalgic memories of the Houston feeling like our appetite for a championship would be fulfilled.
2018 Houston Texans Season
Here we are in 2018, a season that now claims the franchise’s longest win streak under head coach Bill Obrien. It’s our fourth winning season in five years, but there is a clear difference in the city’s reaction to its wins. On paper, seeing the Texans 10-4 with a chance to clinch a bye, with Deshaun Watson as your Quarterback, JJ Watt back to his defensive MVP form, Deandre Hopkins looking like the best wide receiver in the game, we should feel like this championship is ours to lose. As the Texans take it one game at a time, so have we seen it as one game at a time, and although the results say W, reactions of fans are as harsh as if it were an L. Week after week, we have heard the classic “A win is a win,” or “It may have been ugly, but at least we got the W.” I get it, no team is perfect, but these quotes should be an anomaly during a successful season. Instead, they have been the theme of the entire season.
A season that started 0-3 to turn around and go 10-4 shouldn’t find any fan needing to be convinced to enjoy the ride. It’s understandable if you feel that way, if you feel that this entire season has been a “Muppets Meme” saying “This ain’t it, chief.” You don’t have to force yourself to think otherwise; if you feel that is urine hitting your back, don’t let anyone else convince you it is rain. But this team has the potential to be where they belong, in Deshaun Watson’s hometown Atlanta Georgia, in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in February. The Texans have all the right ingredients to be the last one standing this year; it’s up to the chef to know how to prepare it.